TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 2

Counse / Foter / CC BY

As I’ve mentioned before, this blog began in its original version back in 2007 when I was a crunchy parent trying to live a healthy and mindful life with my husband and two children. The blog got sidelined when we were faced with a series of health challenges that started in the summer of 2008. I kept thinking that life would settle down and I could return to my writing at CrunchyParent.com, but amidst the years of chaos we forgot to pay the annual web hosting fee. As a result, the blog content vanished. I had backed up some of my posts, but far from all. Those that I saved are on a computer that has been languishing in storage with the majority of our possessions while we have been living with my parents and house hunting these past nine months. I hope to retrieve and re-post some of what I had written in the past because I think that it provides context, perspective, and maybe even helpful information.

Until I am able to post some of the “greatest hits” from CrunchyParent.com of yesteryear, I wanted to periodically share some of what I had written on a private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org, a free website service for individuals with cancer, back when I was going through my cancer treatment and early recovery. For more about why I’m revisiting my cancer treatment days and to read part 1 of The Cancer Series, take a look here.

The following entry was initially written on January 26, 2011 five weeks after I had received my diagnosis and almost two weeks into my radiation treatment.

Radiation warning sign

Radiation #9

I had my ninth session of radiation yesterday, which I only know because the nurse told me that, right before saying that I’m almost done! I’m not sure how 9 out of 25 equals almost done, but I appreciate her optimism.

I meet with the radiation oncologist once a week to discuss progress, symptoms and whatnot and yesterday was the day. It is supposed to be Mondays but she was not in on Monday so I guess Tuesday was the day this week. Before leaving for treatment in the morning, Rich asked me if I had any questions that I wanted to bring up when I saw the doctor, and I did….

Question #1: Lymphedema-what is my risk and what if anything can I do to minimize this? (See here if you want to know more about lymphedema. Don’t go to Wikipedia unless you want to lose sleep trying to remove the images from your brain).

Question #2: Radiation-why is nothing done to protect the rest of my body during the daily x-rays and radiation treatment? Haven’t they heard that radiation can cause cancer?

So here are the answers…secondary lymphedema can result from damage to the lymphatic system following radiation, removal of the lymph nodes, surgery etc. Although my lymph nodes have not been impacted by my cancer they may be compromised by radiation (scar tissue) and the whole lymphatic drainage system will be disrupted by the tumor removal. The surgeon should be able to comment more about the degree of the disruption. In any case, I am at a lifelong risk of developing lymphedema in my leg although the doctor suspects that it would be mild and hopefully transient. To prevent this I have to try to avoid overuse/underuse of the limb (e.g., standing for long periods of time, immobility during lengthy air travel, etc.); infection (cuts on my leg, pedicures at a salon), and injury (no sharp objects for the kids and a suit of armor for me). She also wrote me a prescription to be evaluated at the lymphedema clinic at the hospital to discuss anything else that I can do before or after treatment to reduce my risk.

Now for #2…I can’t help but notice that every day I walk into a room with a great big door that bears a rather threatening-looking sign saying, “CAUTION very high radiation area.” I recognize that the picture above shows a sign with a less aggressive warning but that’s only because my sign is in a restricted area and I don’t bring my fancy phone with me when I enter the restricted area. I was unwilling to enter the restricted area later to snag a scary-sign picture because I’m basically a rule follower (*unless the rules make no sense, in which case all bets are off). Anyway, every day I pass the scary sign and enter the room and lay down on the strange table under the giant machine with the robotic arm and whirling parts and I have only a hospital gown to protect me from the beams so strong that they warrant their own special sign and an eight inch thick door. Asher has his thumb x-rayed and I had to wear an iron apron, yet for this daily adventure, nothing.

So the doctor tells me that the beams are targeted and that there is some minimal internal scatter but no protective garment would impact that. There is some external risk as well, but I’d have to wear a protective garment the size of a house to provide sufficient protection so no luck there either. She adds however, that the residual radiation is less than I would receive flying on a plane from New York to LA (which I did every day for 25 days straight LAST month). So, asked and answered I suppose.

There you have it, my first official update. Mylifeline.org has kindly provided me with tips for making my update “great.” In brief: 1. Post a new photo with updates for more visual appeal (check); 2. Write the truth. People want to know what’s really happening. (yup); 3. Even though the truth may be hard news or a serious setback, try to end the message on a positive note. Can you share a special memory from the past, or an endearing moment from the day? (*I would like you all to take a moment to recall an experience in which I may not have exactly been an unabashed rule follower. One might spring to mind without too much difficulty). 4. Add a video from YouTube. Copy and paste the embed code from the YouTube video and post it into the content area of your Connecting Update. Okay, there were a whole lot of instructions there that I don’t understand. I’m sure that Rich can translate later. In the meantime, check this one out. Nothing to do with cancer, but it makes me laugh:

Oh wait, I just re-read the instructions and I think that’s what I just did. Woo hoo!

Love to you all!

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